Friday, February 26, 2010

Struggle between Mercia and Wessex

Struggle between Mercia and WessexMany years passed away before the kingdoms could be brought under one king. Northhumberland stood apart from southern England, and during the latter half of the seventh century Wessex grew in power. Wessex had been weak because it was seldom thoroughly united. Each district was presided over by an Ætheling, or chief of royal blood, and it was only occasionally that these Æthelings submitted to the king. From time to time a strong king compelled the obedience of the Æthelings and carried on the old struggle with the western Welsh. It was not till 710 that Ine succeeded in driving the Welsh out of Somerset, and about the same time a body of the West Saxons advancing through Dorset reached Exeter. They took possession of half the city for themselves, and left the remainder to the Welsh. Ine was, however, checked by fresh outbreaks of the subordinate Æthelings, and in 726 he gave up the struggle and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Æthelbald, king of the Mercians, took the opportunity to invade Wessex, and made himself master of the country and over-lord of all the other kingdoms south of the Humber. In 754 the West Saxons rose against him and defeated him at Burford. After a few years his successor, Offa, once more took up the task of making the Mercian king over-lord of southern England. In 775, after a long struggle, he brought Kent as well as Essex under his sway. In 779 he defeated the West Saxons at Bensington, and pushed the Mercian frontier to the Thames. Further than that Offa did not venture to go, and, great as he was, the West Saxons within their shrunken (p. 054) limits continued to be independent of him. He turned his arms upon the Welsh, and drove them back from the Severn to the embankment which is known from his name as Offa's Dyke. The West Saxons, being freed from attack on the side of Mercia, overran Devon. Then there was a contest for the West Saxon crown between Beorhtric and Ecgberht. Beorhtric gained the upper hand, and entered into alliance with Offa by taking his daughter to wife. Ecgberht fled to the Continent.

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